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I hate US Airways

So I was in Cancun last week. Yeah, I know. If you want the short version, you can read my Daily article to that effect, or continue on for grueling details and a special prize!

Lying to my readers is a skill I don’t generally tout – sure, I’ll slip in the occasional mistruth every now and then, but only to form a larger truth that needs the half-lie; something doesn’t have to have happened for it to be true, after all. However, the very first sentence of my most recent installment contains a blatant lie that is almost entirely not my fault: as students read the column (or flipped straight to the crossword, most likely), I was busy being raped in the ass by Philadelphia international airport and US Airways. They took turns. I was most certainly not sliding into a desk-chair combo, nor was I giving the presentation in my novel class that I was scheduled to give.

I say that the situation was only a little my fault, because I did everything that I was supposed to. I arrived at the Cancun airport two hours before my flight on Monday morning, only to encounter a line hundreds of people long, all waiting for the tiny US Airways counter, with more coming in every minute I waited. By the time I got my boarding pass, I had to run to catch the flight, but I needn’t have worried – they decided to wait for everyone. This meant that when we landed in Philadelphia four hours later, I had ten minutes to clear immigration, retrieve my luggage from the carousel, clear customs, recheck my bags, run to my gate, and get on my connecting flight to Seattle. I might have been able to do all that, except that the baggage didn’t arrive for a solid forty-five minutes. Sigh. If I hadn’t brought my guitar to Mexico, I could have carried both my other bags on the plane and probably would have made the flight. The things I suffer for my art.

The airline put me up in a hotel for the night, and the good news is that I checked in just in time for happy hour and got a free white Russian. The bad news is that I was in a hotel in Philadelphia with two papers to write and no computer or Internet connection. I made the best of it by doing as much reading as I could tolerate. The following morning I caught the 9:00 to Seattle, but the fun didn’t stop there, oh no. Above Minnesota, I noticed that we were descending very sharply all of a sudden, and shortly afterwards the pilot announced that the plane’s oxygen system had suffered a malfunction and that we had to land in Minneapolis. We were there for an hour before heading for Seattle again. Bryan picked me up upon my arrival, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to see him.

Some facts concerning my glorious return stateside:

Travel time from Cancun to Seattle: 33 hours
Number of new emails awaiting me: 267
Squares of toilet paper in my apartment: 0
Number of people who had slept in my bed in my absence: 1

Concerning the vacation itself: it was fabulous, maybe even fantabulous. As I noted the last time we talked, the first two days of my stay were overcast and rainy and cold, which irked me somewhat – if I had wanted that, I would have stayed in Seattle. I laid out, hoping that enough UV rays would pass through the cloud cover to give me some color, but no dice; I just got cold and frustrated. At night, Katelyn, her friend Alexa and I headed out to the end of a little pier by the resort, and played songs on my guitar. A bunch of teenagers, sixteen and under, heard and joined us, which was kind of nice.

On Wednesday, Kelly showed up, and everything got more interesting. For one thing, my parents love Kelly. They like her at least as much as any of their children; I think nothing would make them so happy as for us to get married and have lots of babies. I don’t have the heart to tell that that’s not going to happen. In any case, she got along with everyone swimmingly, and even had long conversations with my mom, dad, and grandma independent of me. This was fortunate, because we were spending their money like no one’s business: piloting boats through the jungle and then snorkeling above coral reefs; exploring the Mayan city Coba and buying fresh coconuts on the way home; floating in the pool or the sea with a daiquiri, bushwhacker, or margarita in hand; and of course, the food was simply amazing. On most days, we did so many things that we couldn’t recall them all.

One noteworthy event that I didn’t have space for in the article was Kelly’s and my quest for kerosene. She brought her fire-spinning tools, but obviously couldn’t transport the fuel onto the plane (although they let her take the ball-and-chain poi despite confiscating my little cousin’s safety scissors), so we had to find some white gas or kerosene, the Spanish translation of which none of the locals understood. We spent an entire evening in downtown, hopping from store to store, trying to find either product without any luck. A typical conversation with store employees went as follows (all in Spanish, of course):

Kelly:We’re looking for a gas, like gasoline but less (makes an explosion noise), and it’s more purified…
Me: Yes, it’s for a camping stove, or for a lamp, it comes in a metal can…
Salesperson: Oh yes, this? (shows us a can of Sterno)
Kelly: No, it’s a liquid …
Me: It’s clear. In Chile, they call it kerosina or parafina. It’s a gas…
Salesperson: Oh, yes, yes. (shows us a home theater system)

The above actually happened: we asked for kerosene and got surround sound. I figured out a little later that “kerosina … gasa” sounds a lot like “cines en casa”. We tried five stores or so, then gave up. A few days later, we asked our driver to Coba about it, and went to a hardware store where we bought petroleo, which might have worked except that it wasn’t flammable. A hotel employee named Isiaias (which is very, very difficult to pronounce in Spanish) saw us trying unsuccessfully to light the poi, and volunteered to find and buy the right stuff for us. That didn’t work either. All my relatives really wanted to see Kelly spin fire, but they were all out of luck. We tried, we tried.

I brought my guitar, and Kelly brought hers and her violin, and we spent a good deal of time playing duets on the beach and around the pool. Usually when we whip out the instruments, at a party or somewhere, most people cringe away, but my grandmother and her friends dearly desired to hear us perform. We played them an instrumental version of “New Slang” with Kelly tackling the melody on the violin, and our favorite, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea”. They absolutely loved it. I don’t think we’ve ever had such a receptive, attentive audience. It was a little strange singing Jeff Mangum’s bizarre, beautiful lyrics to an audience of 25 people, median age 67, who were completely unfamiliar with his genre, let alone his band, but it was fun.

So that’s Mexico, essentially. We laid in the sun a lot, ate a ton of really good food, and had adventures at night. Now, back in the States, I’ve begun preparations for my next trip abroad, to Vienna. I got my passport pictures taken this afternoon at the Ram copy center, and they’re awesome. They take them with a camera with two lenses side by side, so the pair of photos you get are stereoscopic. I can look at them cross-eyed and it’s me in 3D. I just did it again, and it’s still fun; I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of looking at a 3D picture of myself.

Surprisingly, I don’t have that much work to do to get caught up with classes. My instructors are fairly lax / understanding, and so I’m mostly in the clear. I just need to read around 150 pages tonight between CS and English… dammit. OK, playtime’s over. Time to read.

After this. I didn’t mention it before, but here’s the article that ran while I was out of the country. It’s not my favorite, but it has its moments. It reminds me a lot of the first article I wrote for the Daily. And here’s how vain I am: I made Kelly get me a copy of the paper and bring it to Mexico. She also was kind enough to pick up a copy of Hard Times by Dickens, which I needed to pass English and had managed to leave on the plane on the way to Cancun.

And about the special prize: that was a lie

Posted in Musings.

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